Diary: Chad Atlas

Chad Atlas went on a 9-day retreat in June, 2016 practicing the fire kasina at Joshua Tree in California with three friends, John Finnell, Chris Miller, and Gabe Hill. Chad recorded an audio diary, and he and his friends gave some written reports. Here are their bios and reports.

Chad Atlas is a 35-year-old father, husband, dog lover, gamer, and lawyer who discovered Zen briefly in college after experiencing an Earth substance-assisted peak, non-dual, unitive experience. Years later, he rediscovered “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” and began practicing meditation daily and diligently in December 2013. Gravitating toward a goal oriented pragmatic dharma approach, Chad began working with Ron Crouch of Aloha Dharma in March 2014. He experienced his first fruition several months later, with many, many more to follow. Prior to the Fire Kasina retreat, Chad attended a 10-day Goenka retreat in July 2015. Chad is a moderator and regular contributor at /r/StreamEntry on Reddit (/u/CoachAtlus), where he sometimes shares the many challenges that regularly arise in his ongoing practice.

Here are his audio diaries in two parts:

Chad’s written report:

“Inspired by Daniel’s and Shannon’s Fire Kasina reports, three dharma friends and I took a trip to the desert in June 2016 to explore the potential of this practice. We rented a home, fittingly called the Diamond Sky Retreat, in Joshua Tree, California and retreated officially for 8.5 days.

Entering the retreat, each of us had different meditation backgrounds, goals, and expectations. However, the unifying theme for our retreat was one of exploration, a willingness to engage fully and openly with the Fire Kasina and to accept whatever this practice had to show us. As we learned, and as advertised, the Fire Kasina — like its elemental counterpart — is powerful, dynamic, and unpredictable.

Some personal background: by conventional standards, I am an ordinary western lay person who stumbled into a pragmatic dharma practice around December 2013. (You can read my now dated AMA on Reddit here, where I described myself and my practice at the time in some detail.)  Prior to discovering meditation practice, my reaction toward anything remotely religious, magickal, or spiritual inevitably involved extreme aversion and absolute disbelief.  Through practice, my conceptual certainty about that and many other aspects of conventional reality started to crumble.  As a consequence, I found myself opening to more esoteric spiritual practices and techniques, suddenly curious about the mystickal and the magickal.  Hence, the Fire Kasina retreat.

My own expectations for the Fire Kasina practice varied widely and wildly both before and during the retreat. In the months leading up to the retreat, I was suffering from classic symptoms of murky, middle path yogihood. My practice felt like it was floundering and directionless. During the retreat, I struggled constantly with a desire for technical meditation mastery, craving experiences ranging from path completion (whatever that might mean) to extreme, meditation-induced psychedelic states of consciousness. In my audio diaries, which follow, that struggle is palpable.

Shortly after the retreat, I posted a technical summary of our retreat experiences to a newly created awakening-focused dharma community on Reddit called Stream Entry. You can read that post here if you are interested in a contemporaneous, phenomenology-focused report of the retreat.

Initially, I intended to post a more elaborate version of that technical retreat summary, but I have since lost the appetite for it. That happens, I think. In the months following the Fire Kasina retreat, I experienced a lot of aversion toward meditation practice generally. It was extremely difficult for me to find the motivation to edit my audio diaries and prepare this introduction. That aversion eventually resolved, as things tend to do for me nowadays.

Sitting here today, I would recommend the Fire Kasina to practitioners seeking a challenging, humbling, dynamic, and different sort of practice. If you engage in this practice, I recommend adopting an attitude of deep and sincere respect for the Fire Kasina. The kitchy truth about this practice is this: If you play with fire, you might get burned. Please practice responsibly.

I want to offer a special thanks to Daniel, Florian, Duncan, and Shannon for sharing their experiences about this powerful practice and inspiring and encouraging me to explore it on retreat. In particular, I am deeply grateful to Shannon, Daniel, and Florian for volunteering their time to offer personal instruction, advice, and encouragement, before, during, and after the retreat.

I hope and wish that these audio diaries and resources will be of benefit to you and your practice.  (Music from the audio diaries: www.bensound.com)”